Benjamin T. Ismail

Big Idea Theatre’s “Inventing Van Gogh” stars, from left, Brian Watson, Ed Gyles, Brennan Villados, Kristine David and Kevin Toole.

Sacramento Live: Familiar actors on other stages

Published: Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014 - 6:00 pm

Playwright David Davalos’ “Wittenberg,” which he calls a “tragical-comical-historical” prequel to “Hamlet,” received its West Coast premiere in 2008 at the B Street Theatre. The heady comedy turns on the clever idea that two famous literary figures, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, could have been at the same place, the University of Wittenberg, with a historical figure, the controversial German monk and theologian Martin Luther.

Imagine Faustus as a lusty professor of philosophy verbally jousting with a circumspect fellow lecturer, Luther, whose questioning of the Catholic Church inspired the Protestant Reformation. In between is their prized student, the Danish prince Hamlet, who’s so confused he can’t even decide on a major much less consider heaven and hell.

The play is making its Bay Area debut this month at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley with B Street acting company member Michael Stevenson starring as Faustus, with Dan Hiatt as Luther and Jeremy Kahn as Hamlet. Stevenson’s wife, Jamie Jones, just starred in the theater’s acclaimed previous production “Gidion’s Knot.”

“Wittenberg” plays at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through May 4. The Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets: $32-$60. Information at (510) 843-4042,

‘Van Gogh’

The playwright Steven Dietz also mixes historical figures on stage with fictional ones in his “Inventing Van Gogh,” which opens Friday at Big Idea Theatre. Dietz isn’t having as much fun with his premise, though, as it’s strictly a dramatic affair of tortured artists and the academics who enable them.

Moving back and forth in time, the story involves the search for the last Van Gogh, forgeries of the same, and suicide re-enactments. Benjamin Ismail directs a cast that includes Brennan Villados, Kristine David, Kevin Toole, Brian Watson and Ed Gyles.

“Inventing Van Gogh” plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through May 17 at Big Idea Theatre, 1616 Del Paso Blvd. Sacramento. Tickets: $10-$20. Information at (916) 960-3036,

‘The Book of Liz’

Casting the always-idiosyncratic Georgann Wallace as the wonderfully naive Elizabeth Donderstock in “The Book of Liz” was a stroke of genius by director Nina Collins. Wallace’s voice, sense of timing and naturally curious expression are just right for the Squeamish cheese-ball maker in the picaresque satire from David and Amy Sedaris.

Feeling unappreciated in her conservative, cloistered religious community, Donderstock strikes out on her own in the outside world to see just what’s what. The Resurrection Theatre cast includes Earl Vicorine, Steve Buri and Bethany Hidden-Cauley.

“The Book of Liz” continues 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through April 26 at the Three Penny Theatre in the R25 Arts Complex, 1723 25th St., Sacramento. Tickets: $15-$20. Information at (916) 223-9568,

Read more articles by Marcus Crowder

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